Since the inception of the Town of Truckee’s Trails and Bikeways Master Plan in 2002, our town has seen a remarkable transition from a community almost exclusively built to accommodate automobiles to one that provides exceptional opportunities for non-motorized recreation and commuting via paved bike paths and bike lanes. With the passage of Measure R in 2014 and Measure U in 2022, Truckee is well positioned to continue building out the master plan’s vision.
As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come,” and our citizenry has responded in kind, with usage numbers increasing every year (also propelled by Covid). Surveys conducted by the Town of Truckee in 2022 show an average daily trail volume of 935 users at the peak of summer (at East River Street), and a shocking 864 average users at the peak of winter. With Trout Creek Trail data at 419 and 538 users respectively, it’s clear that our citizenry is enjoying these trails-based opportunities. With the new BCycle e-bike share program, our enjoyment of bikes will only continue to grow. But with most change comes growing pains.
Complaints about cyclist speed, uncontrolled off-leash dogs, and pedestrians walking five abreast obliviously blocking the path are all voiced with a fair amount of regularity. A few vocal citizens have taken to blaming the dramatic increase in electric bikes as the root of the problem on our paved trails, a subset going so far as to propose a ban on e-bikes. With the town coming this far in implementation of the master plan, getting cars off our roads and improving our collective physical and mental health, is a ban on a singular user group really the answer? No. We at the Truckee Trails Foundation believe that most users (including dogs) are courteous and most cyclists ride at a speed designed for safety. For everyone else, we strongly oppose any ban on a particular user group.
Instead, TTF proposes the following: First, it is time for a speed limit on paved bike paths in our town. While we realize this creates expectations of enforcement, we don’t believe that there needs to be a constant law enforcement presence; once word is out that officers are occasionally on the trail, we believe compliance and courtesy will increase dramatically. Similarly, enforcement of helmet requirements for youth will go a long way to preventing tragic injuries. Second, like many bike paths in California, we believe a painted centerline will help users comply with the “walk right, pass left” norm on bike paths. Finally, common sense education through our schools, bike rodeos, TTF trail ambassadors, and on-trail messaging will help tremendously. The Town of Truckee’s partnership with the Tahoe Fund’s Take Care Tahoe team has been placing painted stencils on the Legacy Trail as a means to help educate users. We believe this is an excellent start to helping protect all users on the paved path.
TTF Bike Valets alone have served over 600 bicyclists so far this summer — residents choosing to ditch their cars for the benefit of personal health, community stewardship, and global climate change. In a community of people who live here to commune and recreate in the great outdoors, we should continue encouraging bicyclists, unicyclists, scooterists, skateboarders, hand cyclists, and, of course, pedestrians as an alternative to cars as much as we can.
To this end, we are also advocating for more bike lanes, trails (dirt and paved), and a community where every neighborhood is somehow connected to town and to one another by trails and bikeways. With the growth in usership that will likely result as we achieve our goals, we believe basic regulatory steps outlined above will help ensure a safer experience for all users. The time is now to get this done.
~ Allison Pedley is the executive director of the Truckee Trails Foundation, which is creating a world-class network of trails and bikeways in and around Truckee. This includes advocacy work with local, state, and federal governmental entities, fundraising, and dirt trail building and maintenance. In the last six years, TTF has built over 27 miles of new trails for all to enjoy. Info at: truckeetrails.org.